Writing well rounded characters can be difficult, but once in a while a game will rise to the challenge and produce some outstanding individuals. For international women’s day let’s take a look at some of the best female characters in video games.
Obviously this isn't an exhaustive list of every character from every game, so if I've missed someone especially notable on your list, let me know and I will wholeheartedly check out the game/character.
Here are just some of my picks:
Ellie from The Last Of Us
Ellie was the first that came to mind when writing this list, and may have been the first for you as well. She’s a kid who was born in an apocalyptic world and was forced to grow up very quickly, so she expresses both adult and child-like qualities throughout the game. Although the more innocent and childish aspects of her become less common towards the end as the brutality of the world begins to harden her heart and mind.
While Clementine from Telltale’s The Walking Dead is most people’s go to for a ‘surrogate daughter’ character, for me Ellie was a more well rounded example of the daughter side character who relies on the player up to a certain point.
You become attached to her along the way and struggle with the notion of possibly losing her or having her fall corrupted like many other before her. The difference between Ellie and Clementine comes down to the moment when Ellie takes up the mantle of being the ‘caretaker’ of Joel and showing a maturity and wisdom well beyond her years.
This is made all the more believable by the writing surrounding her character, she is inquisitive and brash, but learns from Joel’s examples earlier in the game. Following her journey across America, Ellie blossoms in a harsh environment that has killed millions and tested the strength of humanity many times over. I look forward to seeing this continued in The Last of Us 2.
Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn
Voiced by the wonderful Ashly Burch, Aloy is the kind of character I wish more young adult novels wrote their female protagonists. Aloy is not built around her romantic interests or a feeling of being bland, but wanting to be different. Instead she is an outcast, shunned from birth and raised in the wilds by a fellow outcast.
Surrounded by secrets and rejection, she sets out to earn her place in the world and prove to everyone that she belongs. What follows is an outstanding adventure, filled with robotic foes and woeful stories of sacrifice. Through it all Aloy remains strong and overcomes hurdles by growing and learning from her experiences.
She is a well rounded character, driven by her needs and curiosity about the world that surrounds her - a far better character than any young adult novel I’ve ever read.
Kassandra from Assassins Creed Odyssey
(Seriously I envy her arms.)
When I first heard that Assassins Creed Odyssey would feature a gendered option for the main character I was a bit worried. I thought that like almost every game that offers this choice the majority of the player base would go with the male choice, with the developers learning more heavily on the male’s designs, story lines and cutscenes etc. So you can imagine my surprise when social media alerted me to the fact that people were all about Kassandra.
As soon as I started my playthrough I immediately understood why. Kassandra is everything I want to be - kickass, sarcastic, independent and witty. From a young age she was exiled from Sparta and forced to live a life on the streets under the wing of a crooked peddler. She lived a hard life, but was able to rise up from the slums and make something of herself - even if it was a ruthless mercenary.
As a warrior/assassin the notion of her being a women never feels like a stretch, in fact her skills and finesse suit her personality and body perfectly. She is built solid and Ubisoft didn’t shy away from making her a hard bodied character, instead of the skinny fit female characters so often seen in video games.
Were Kassandra in the modern day you better believe she would be hitting up those crossfit early sessions and pumping those protein shakes.
Ciri from The Witcher 3
While my partner and I bicker over which romantic interest in The Witcher 3 is best, there is one thing we can agree on - Ciri is best girl.
From embodying the best parts of Geralt, to her taking control of her own destiny, Ciri is a fantastic character. While the game continues to pit Yennefer and Triss against one another for Geralt’s affections, having Ciri as a pseudo daughter figure works well with any combination of love interests.
She was written as more than just a connection to Geralt, as a future witcher to take on the mantle once he and the older witchers of his generation are gone. This may be in part due to the books the series is based upon, with Ciri being a major plot point and fleshed out in those pages more than video game development and plots usually allows.
The parts in which you get to play as her are some of my favourite from The Witcher 3, with her basically being a youthful version of Geralt who can teleport. The scenes which include her also demonstrate how alone she really feels, with a ‘big bad’ following her wherever she goes she finds herself unable to connect with anyone for long or risk their safety.
Ciri separates herself from the ones she loves, like Geralt who was a better father figure than her real father ever was, in order to protect them and spare the world from the prophecy surrounding her strange powers.
She is a flawed character and she chooses to run instead of facing her fate, which most of us would all do if faced with the same situation. She yearns for connection, but brings ruin to all she crosses paths with. The complex emotions and turmoil that she goes through is written all over her heavily scarred face, a price she has to pay everyday.
Sadie Adler from Red Dead Redemption 2
Sadie Adler is an old school feminist. She wants to be one of the guys, earning her keep in the camp and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. After her husband is killed by the O’Driscoll Boys she joins the camp and sets about a life on the run.
Once she joins Dutch’s camp she becomes irritated by her role as the assistant cook (merely cutting vegetables all day), believing she can help with more than just chores around the camp. This leads to her taking matters into her own hands and fighting off invaders later on in the game.
Sadie goes from being a damaged widower to a hard outlaw pretty quickly, taking to the new life with unsettling ease. While she takes risks and causes a few issues in camp, thanks in part to some of the backwards opinions of women that were held during the time period, she stands up for herself and even gets revenge for her husband’s murder. In the years after leaving the camp she becomes a successful bounty hunter and sets off towards South America on a new adventure.
I wish there was more of her character in the game, especially with RDR2 being a prequel and her not turning up in the original Red Dead Redemption.
Honourable mentions: Lara Croft, Isabelle, Tiny Tina, Yennefer, Triss Merigold, Clementine, Faith, Bayonetta, GLaDOS, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Amanda Ripley, Morrigan, Female Commander Shepard. (And many, many more)